After a visit from Dr. Lincoln Mullen of George Mason University, our class came home with a huge takeaway—that static maps matter. But why do they matter? We spent an entire semester discussing the benefits of interactivity, so I found it both confusing and refreshing to take a step back to talk about why static maps can say just as much, if not more, than interactive maps. This was all in relation to the map I’ve been working on for the past 3 months, Program’s of Modern-Music Societies in New York from 1920-1931, from Carol J. Oja’s Making Music Modern. In this, I created a semi-thick map in which a plethora of data was being represented in a single view. This mass of information made it difficult for me to express, or even find, an argument, as the sheer number of points on the map were too distracting from any sort of statement I had to say. On top of this, it was considerably difficult to guide the user in recreating the argument, so my map just ended up as an exploratory free-for-all. I was surprised that Lincoln Mullen’s answer to this problem was to create static maps, but after some rumination, I wholeheartedly agree with him.
While static maps can be problematic as they only show what the mapmaker wants to show, they are equally useful in concisely and easily establishing an argument. The example that Dr. Mullen gave to our class was a map on pizza place geography. At the bottom of this page, the site gives a series of static maps that effectively show the relationships between pizza places by both showing their geography statically, side by side, and by juxtaposing them on top of one another. While I didn’t do the latter in my final project, I did place maps of composer organizations side by side, which allowed me to better understand how composer organizations acted both individually and compared to other composer organizations. In the end, I found that side-by-side static maps allow for a much more concise and easily understandable way to state an argument, while interactive thick maps require much more finagling to get to the same result.